Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Best Performances of 2014

                                                                              Bandaloop  © SKepecs 2014
by Susan Kepecs
Around the world the number of popular uprisings against the oil, narco, racist, sexist, military and political forces of global capitalism increased this year. But can the people ever win?  While you ponder the question, remember this: at least there’s respite in the arts.  Here, in no particular order, are the performances I was most grateful for this year. 

Madison Opera’s Dead Man Walking, April 25-27, in Overture Hall.  Based on the made-into-movie book by Sister Helen Prejean, composed by Jake Heggie with libretto by Terrrence Nally, and directed and conducted by Maestro John Demain, Dead Man Walking was the year’s most powerful production.  The structure of this opera offers all the elements of its traditional, nineteenth century predecessors – love, violence, high drama – but the work is set compellingly in the zeitgeist of today. The music – Stravinskyesque modern with touches of gospel, jazz and blues – plus the industrial, Broadway-style set – grab a musty old artform by the horns and flip it smack into the present.  In Madison Opera’s production the performances, especially by the leads – Daniela Mack as Sister Helen Prejean and Michael Mayes as the murderer on death row, Joseph DeRocher – were beautifully turned. The emotional impact of this opera on the audience was astonishing, and colossal social relevance of this exceptional work of art was driven home again three days later, when the botched execution of an Oklahoma death row inmate monopolized the national news.

Madison Ballet’s Repertory II program, March 21-22, at the Bartell. Three short ballets were on the bill – two by artistic director W. Earle Smith (La Luce D’Amore, a pure ballet piece to a set of
                                                         "Who Cares?"   © SKepecs 2014
Neopolitan folk tunes, and Groovy, an ode to the 1960s), plus the concert version of Who Cares?, George Balanchine’s Broadwayesque, Gershwin-scored gem from 1970.  Much of the dance performance I saw this year was formulaic and dull.  But these ballets sparkled, setting the company’s strong, polished dancers free, within the neoclassical canon and the parameters of the choreography, to let loose and dance for joy.

Juancho Martínez (L) and Aurelio Martínez   © SKepecs 2014 
Two selections from the Eleventh Annual Madison World Music Festival, Sept. 12-13, Memorial Union Terrace, the Wisconsin Union Theater, and the Willy St. Fair.  One was Aurelio Martínez and the Garifuna Soul Band, from Honduras (Sept. 12, Shannon Hall at WUT). No place on earth has   more social problems than this crime-ridden ex-banana republic, and few people are more marginalized than the African / Caribbean Garifuna of Central America’s Atlantic coast. “I write songs about social problems,” guitarist / bandleader Martínez said onstage.“We are the voice of silence.”  But no music has ever been more alegre – smooth, rhythmic, tropical and transcendant, with a moral message for the ages: you gotta dance to keep from cryin’.  Congas, hollow-log Garifuna drums, bass, dueling guitars – plus invited guest Juan Tomás “Juancho” Martínez, of Golpe Tierra, Clan Destino, Acoplados and other smokin’ Mad City bands, on cajón and congas – put out irresistable punta and parranda beats.  Aurelio, possessed of a powerful deep tenor and a supple guitar style, sang like a preacher, scatted like a jazzman, danced with the spirits. “Like it?” he asked. “Garifuna soul!”

    Bandaloop © SKepecs 2014
 Also at the MWMF, aerial dance company Bandaloop (both days, Union Terrace) took my breath away.  No tricks á la Cirque de Soliel, no death-defying, high-impact feats like Streb’s.  Bandaloop’s a small company of extremely graceful movers who used the Terrace face of the Union Theater exactly  the way modern and classical dancers use the floor – but with a whole extra dimension.  Rigged like  mountain climbers the dancers got incredible hang time in the air, approximating flight.  How much fun, jitterbuggging to Count Basie, suspended up there!  When I interviewed senior dancer Melecio Estrella before the fest, he told me one of the company’s main aims was to get people to see architecture they may be very familiar with in a new light. Bingo. That side of the WUT hasn’t looked the same since. 

Million Dollar Quartet, May 13-18, Overture Hall.  
The ebullient jukebox musical, revolving around a 1956 recording session at Sun Records in Memphis, featured killer musicians playing standout songs from the dawn of rock n’ roll.  Corey Kaiser (as Jay Perkins) didn’t get as much spotlight as his collaborators (little brother Carl, Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis), but he was oh-so-cool, daddy-o, slappin’ and spinnin’ that standup bass, jitterbugging a foot all the while. James Barry (as Carl Perkins) pounded out hard-driving, two-fisted boogie-woogie and occasionally rippled a foot across the ivories for extra effect.  And John Countryman (as Jerry Lee Lewis) stole the show, boppin’ his head and stompin’ his feet as he shook, rattled and rolled.

                                                               DakhaBrakha  © SKepecs 2014

DakhaBrakha, Aug. 28, at Overture’s Capitol Theater.  This altermodern Ukranian band is a force of nature with its ancient, pagan, avant-garde music of the spheres, its polyphonic chants, Motown harmonies, accordions, cello, African percussion, and high performance art attitude.  The band’s second (third?) Madison appearance coincided with the height of the (still sizzling) crisis, on a day particularly rife with reports of new Russian incursions in eastern Ukraine.  The second set ended with the band’s signature song, “Baby,” and as the cheering audience rose to its feet the musicians held up signs.  “Stop Putin.” “No War.”  Whooping and hollering in solidarity ensued.
Kanopy Dance’s performance of Martha Graham’s “Steps in the Street” at American Kaleidoscope, Overture’s tenth anniversary celebration show, Sept. 27 in the big hall.  “Steps,” from 1936, is an absolutely striking example of Graham’s early work and a veritable lexicon of her brilliant modernist vocabulary.  It requires exacting, difficult modern dance technique, and it was rendered splendidly by Kanopy’s dancers. 

I’m giving two local saoco salutes this year, both to institutions that serve up big doses of performing arts happiness to the community on a regular basis.  One goes to the Cardinal Bar, for all those Friday
Tony Castañeda at the Cardinal © SKepecs 2014
happy hour jazz jam tribe gatherings.  Tony Castañeda’s Latin Jazz Quartet plays most first Fridays; the rest of the month varies, but the rotation, mixing up Latin and straight-ahead, often includes Golpe Tierra, Acoplados, Samba Novistas, El Clan Destino, the Dave Stoler Trio, and Gerri DiMaggio among others. 
The other goes to the Greater Madison Jazz Consortium for its 2014 Strollin’ Jazz Crawls. I only did the First Settlement event, on Sept. 26, and even then I didn’t catch every act. But what a pleasure to amble along East Wilson on a warm late September afternoon with the community out in full force, relaxed and diverse – so conspicuously different from the establishment formality of Overture’s American Kaleidoscope show the following night.  Such a stroke of genius, turning Crowley Station (aka the concrete top of Municipal Well #17) into a bandstand for Jamie Kember’s Madison College Big Band and later, Ladies Must Swing!  Meanwhile, the great Jan Wheaton’s joyous groove rocked the packed-to-the gills Cardinal across the street.  Formidable guitarist Louka Patenaude plied his alt-country side at Tempest Oyster Bar, accompanied by another guitar guru, Richard Hildner, plus John Christensen on bass and Juancho Martínez on cajón. 

© SKepecs 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Madison Ballet's 2014 Nutcracker Flaunts Beautiful Ballerinas

Quirk in the Land of Snow.  © Kat Stiennon 2014

by Susan Kepecs
Madison Ballet’s 2014 Nutcracker, at Overture Hall through December 27 (I attended Saturday night, Dec. 13, and Sunday afternoon, Dec. 14) was a bit like that Victorian rhyme about bridal good luck charms – something old, new, borrowed, and blue.  By superstition that should be enough to ward off bad juju, and for the most part this production came through beautifully.  Just a few small demons slipped through the cracks.
The sets and about 95% of the choreography are relatively old, dating to 2004, Overture’s opening year.  And nobody goes to Nut for the party scene, as someone commented later, but the one in Madison Ballet’s production is so old it’s worn out. In both casts, the young Claras (Tia Wenkman Saturday night, Ruby Sutherlin Sovern Sunday afternoon) danced brightly and with spunk  But really, the dancing dolls are the scene’s saving grace. Young, talented company apprentice Annika Reikersdorfer’s music-box ballerina pique turns and twinkling pas de chats, plus Jackson Warring, flaunting crisp, clean cabrioles and quadruple pirouettes in his rhythmic soldier doll dance, brought the sleepy stage – and the audience – to life.
What’s new (and good) is twofold: first, and most importantly, Madison Ballet has grown; there’s an extra weekend of Nutcracker performances, and to carry that load for first time there are two sets of principals (Clara / Snow Queen / Sugarplum Fairy and her Nutcracker Cavalier).  It’s the ballerinas who count here.  One was Marguerite Luksik, who’s danced this role the last four or five years, and who I saw Saturday night, partnered by Jason Gomez.  The other is Shannon Quirk, partnered Sunday afternoon by Phillip Ollenburg.  This is Quirk’s third season with Madison Ballet, but her first in the principal part.
Second in the “what’s new” category are some costumes in Act II.  The plummy new Sugarplum wear is sleek and snazzy – very twenty-first century without treading on tradition at all.  And the new Waltz of the Fowers tutus are gorgeous, much more flower-like than the old ones with spring green bodices above pastel tulle in pink, peach, and hydrangea blue, hence “something blue.”
Less wondrous were the new Merliton costumes; the puffy-sleeved, long-skirted, candy-striped dresses fit the carnivalesque, Victorian ambience of Nut’s second act, but they looked heavy, made the dancers’ necks look short, and hid the complex legwork in what’s arguably the ballet’s longest, most difficult variation.
What’s borrowed was Drosselmeyer.  Actor Sam White, who’s been doing that part since, I think, 2008, was out with an injury – so the show appropriated Madison Ballet artistic director W. Earle Smith for the role.  Smith was oddly outfitted for the traditional, nineteenth-century look of this production in a 1970’s-style but appropriately plum-colored suit beneath the classic cape.  Though long retired from the stage Smith can dance up a storm, and he possesses considerable acting chops – but he downplayed the part.  It’s easy to understand why he chose to stay in the background, but it would have been fun to see him strut his stuff, amping up the magician’s malevolence. 
Beyond what’s old or new, there’s the matter of what’s timeless. There’s Tchaikovsky’s score, for one thing, sparkling in the hands of the Madison Chamber Orchestra under Maestro Andrew Sewell’s vibrant baton.  The dancing itself, and Smith’s choreography, are lovely and fun.  Yes, there were a few glitches.  The stage had a few slippery spots, but that’s old hat.  The Snow corps got off to a late start Saturday night, which threw off the timing for a few seconds.  But ballets, like the humans who make them happen, don’t need to be 100% perfect to be great.  
Among the divertissements, Spanish on Saturday night, danced by Warring and second-season apprentice Andrew Erickson, stood out; the pair waltzed and pirouetted and sailed cabrioles and tour jetés in tight, rhythmic unison with loads of ballon and brio español.  Also appealing was the slinky, golden-lit Arabian pas, with its sinuous, suggestive partnering and push-pull dynamic, both nights partnered by Cody Olsen.  Rachelle Butler (Saturday night) curled and unfurled around Olsen’s Pilates-buff body like liquid silk; Abigail Henninger’s flexibility and endless extensions on Sunday were striking.
But the best thing about Madison Ballet’s 2014 Nutcracker was the opportunity to witness the artistry of two sensational but very different ballerinas in the principal role, back to back.  In fact, though, each has two roles, which they swap in alternate performances – Clara / Snow Queen / Sugarplum one time, the Dewdrop the next.
The comparison is fascinating.  Luksik is audacious, elfin, fleet of foot; Quirk is elegant, long-limbed, swan-like, luxurious.  The choreography for both is the same, of course, but what’s vividly remembered the next day is a factor the dancers’ distinct styles.
Luksik as the Dewdrop     © Kat Stiennon 2014
Luksik’s energy crackles onstage.  In her Sugarplum variation Saturday her glittery feet stirred up imaginary fairy dust with a tricky little gargouillade; later she spun sixteen flawless fouettes into a triple pirouette. In the pas de deux she flung herself thrillingly into partnered arabesque, flipped a flirty attitude leg around Gomez, then swept deep into penché.  She ran across the stage, leaping onto his shoulder – like an exclamation point! – twice in a row. 
    As Dew Saturday night Quirk’s long-legged bourées were like those of a great, graceful bird.  The jetés she sailed across the stage came close to flight.  On Sunday in the enchanged land of snow she melted into sumptuous lifts, swirling into arabesques like a crystaline flake in the wind.  In the Sugarplum pas, a picture-perfect attitude followed by a fearless fish dive made the audience gasp. Then she lept, regal and victorious, onto Ollenburg’s shoulder, arms allongé, raised to the skies like exultant wings.   

Monday, November 17, 2014

Barroso en Cha Cha Cha, ¡Ay, Mama!

by Susan Kepecs
The great sonero mayor Abelardo Barroso was born in Havana in 1905 and died there in 1972 – 24 years before Afro-Cuban bandleader Juan de Marcos González brought the old soneros, who’d been more or less relegated to the dustbins of prerevoltionary history, to the attention of Ry Cooder and Nick Gold.  From this collaboration came the Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon at the end of the 1990s (  Barroso missed the rebirth of Cuban son, but he was not forgotten by the Buena Vista musicians.  A song penned by another late great sonero, Ibrahim Ferrer – “Mi Musica Cubana,” for his second solo Buena Vista album, Buenos Hermanos (World Circuit, 2003) – tells it like it used to be.  The lyrics (they’re better in Spanish) go like this: “There are many who say they’re the real ones, but they forget the ones who got there first.  Of the many I know there’s only two names I’d say – one was Abelardo Barroso, the other Beny Moré.”
The Buena Vista craze faded away – Ferrer and too many other musicians who were part of the original BVSC group are gone – but leave it to Nick Gold to bring Barroso back to life as we head into 2015.  With permission from Cuba’s state-owned record label EGREM, where the original is archived, the old Buena Vista production team – Gold, superstar sound engineer Jerry Boys, and the World Circuit label – remastered Cha Cha Cha, starring Barroso with la Orquesta Sensación, led by percussionist Rolando Valdés and recorded in the mid-1950s on the prerevolutionary Cuban label Puchito.  I own a lot of EGREM reissues, which I love, but they’re pretty lo-fi.  Cha Cha Cha is something else entirely.  From 60-year old magnetic tape recordings stored all this time in the voracious heat and humidity of Cuba’s capital city, Boys has wrung miracles.  Cha Cha Cha features a wide range of tunes in its eponymous genre, plus a little somethin’ else.  And it aptly captures the remarkable versatility of Barroso’s voice. 
The advance copy I got has no liner notes, so I can’t talk about the rest of the lineup, but Cha Cha Cha is all about Barroso anyway. The great sonero possessed a style less silky than Ferrer’s, less urban and slick than Moré’s – and more nuanced than either.  Baptized “the Cuban Caruso,” Barroso plied his pipes with the best sextets and septets of the 1920s son boom.  Most famous among them were the Sexteto Habanero and the Septeto Nacional de Ignacio Piñero; you can get some reissues and compilations on CD.  In the ‘30s, Barroso co-led the Charanga López / Barroso with pianist Orestes López, whose brother, better known in the States, was the bass-playing mambo king Cachao. 
Charanga’s the key to Sensación’s sound.  Unlike the classic Havana-style son instrumentation you hear on the BVSC albums – guitars (including the distinctive trés cubano), percussion, bass, trumpet, piano – the first charanga orchestras played stately danzón, an early twentieth century Afro-Cuban genre that drank deeply from French influences.  Afro-French culture, of course, came at Cuba from both sides in the nineteenth century – New Orleans to the west, Haiti to the east.  Danzón was instrumental music, and charangas got their characteristic sound from violins, flutes and piano as well as bass and timbales.  In the 1930s, when Barroso teamed up with López, charangas, picking up the hot son trend, added vocalists – and so it was that the violin and flute sound persisted as Afro-Cuban music diversified.
As legend has it (one legend, anyway – there are multiple variations on this theme) Barroso’s career faded in the late ‘40s / early ‘50s, Havana’s Mafia heyday, when the money was on US-influenced big band mambo jazz.  Barroso was working in radio and in cabaret orchestras, playing percussion and sometimes singing a little – but as the story goes he had to make ends meet by working as a stevedore on the city’s docks.  And then violinist Enrique Jorrín, with the charanga outfit Orquesta América, started emphasizing the cha cha cha rhythm.  New charanga orchestras sprang up to carry the craze.  One fateful night in 1954 or ’55 the owner of Puchito records, Jesús Gorís, recognized Barroso playing congas at a cabaret.  At Beny Moré’s request Gorís invited the faded star to record with Rolando Valdés’ charanga, the Orquesta Sensación.
Barroso reveled in being returned to his rightful place in the universe, staking a boastful claim – “soy Abelardo Barroso!” – to almost every track on Cha Cha Cha. His first hit with Sensación – it was huge – was his signature song from the Sexteto Habanero days, “En Guantánamo.”  On Cha Cha Cha there’s a fast cha running beneath the son – you can dance on either beat, though the latter prevails. The tune reveals how nuanced Barroso’s voice was, even when he was pushing 50.  A few almost operatic notes throw the opening a little curve, and then he glides into that loping, old-fashioned sonero sound that’s as Cuban as cigars and sugarcane.
The second track on the album, “La Hija de Juan Simón,” was originally the title tune from a Spanish tear-jerker musical made into a 1935 film produced by Luis Buñuel.  Sensación does it as flamenco-cha; Barroso puts out a jaw-droppingly dramatic performance, exaggerating vowels and dropping consonants like a cantaor sevillano. 
“Tiene Sabor” has the double entendre lyrics and call-and response pattern of the son sub-genre guaracha – call it guaracha-cha.  The trés is prominent on this track, along with punchy violin / flute work
The danzón-cha “Yo ‘ta cansaa” is elegantly slow, with the cha-cha-cha definitively marked.  It’s a really sexy dance tune about an old man who’s too tired to go to work. There’s a lovely extended break in which Barroso lays out his list of complaints “my kidneys hurt!” – and each time, the chorus responds “he can’t work!” In a related vein there’s “Triste Lucha,” an Arsenio Rodríguez bolero-son that, in Sensación’s hands, melts across the imaginary danzón / son frontier.
“Bruca Manigua,” another Rodríguez tune, has been done by a lot of artists including Ferrer and Sierra Maestra, back in that band’s Juan de Marcos days.  Rodríguez, as Ned Sublette, your best English-language source on Cuban music by far (Cuba and its Music, Chicago Review Press 2004), points out, wrote this song about being a slave in the Afro-Spanish dialect of his grandfather’s generation.  Rodríguez called it a congo, but Sensación does it as son-cha with trumpets, fiddles, and mucho swing.
“Brujo en Guanabacoa” is pure cha cha cha, with lyrics about going to see a babalao – you know, a santería priest – in a Havana barrio famous for its santeros.  A little guaguancó coda wraps up the track, emphasizing the African-ness of this theme.
There’s a pair of pregones – songs taking their clues from the street criers in Latin America who sell newspapers, or fruit licuados, or well, peanuts.  One is “El Manisero” – the peanut vendor – that famous son-pregon written by Havana composer Moisés Simons in the late 1920s, done by everyone from Stan Kenton and (yikes!) Dean Martin to the Fania All-Stars.  Sensación does a really chewy son-cha take on this tune, more son than cha, irresistible pa’ bailar – and 110% Cuban, like everything on this album.
The other is “El Panquelero,” a pregon-cha almost surely composed by Barroso.  It’s a Manisero knockoff, but about pancakes, and the cha’s juicier here – I could dance to this one all night.
“Macorina” – written around 1930 by a Spanish poet residing in Havana about a mulatta who utterly scandalized that great city early in the twentieth century – was made famous by the late monarch of Mexican song Chavela Vargas, who sang it as a bolero at almost every concert she gave for half a century.  Vargas first recorded this tune in 1956 after a trip to Havana, but Sensación may have done it first, and theirs is guaracha-cha.
Barroso sang “El Guajiro de Cunagua” back in his Sexteto Habanero days, but Sensación slicked it up for the ‘50s as son montuno, with piano guajeos, flute but no cha, and guaguancó at the end.  Going deeper in the realm of rumba, “Mulata Rumbera” is guaguancó-cha (you can dance on either beat) that goes straight rumba three-fourths of the way through.  And “La Reina del Guaguancó” is rumba all the way – it belongs entirely to Barroso, the drums and the chorus. 
How’s that for an ample sample?  This is a big, rich album of Cuban music, and World Circuit debuts it – in typical Buena Vista style, with photos and notes (hopefully including the complete Sensación lineup) later this month. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ooooeeee, That Girl Can Play!

by Susan Kepecs
It’s impossible to write about jazz drummer Terri Lyne Carrington without bringing up the gender issue.  There's a handful of highly successful women playing instrumental jazz today, but historically even fewer women have had careers in the field than in that infamous man-bastion, the US Congress.  Back when ladies could sing the abstract truth but very few dared to play it – and the intrepid ones were all keyboardists, because, you know, it’s kosher for princesses to play piano –  Terri Lyne Carrington was a child prodigy on the drum kit in the kingdom of bop.  “Oooeee, man, that little girl can play!” Dizzy Gillespie told an Ebony interviewer in 1977, when Carrington was 11.  Fast forward 36 years: in 2013 Carrington became the first woman to ever to win a Grammy in the Best Jazz Instrumental category, for her album Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue (Concord Jazz, 2013).  It was her second golden Victrola – two years earlier she copped the Best Jazz Vocal award for The Mosaic Project (Concord Jazz, 2011), featuring an all-woman instrumental lineup with a luminous array of vocalists including Diane Reeves, Cassandra Wilson and Gretchen Parlato.  On Sat., Nov. 8, the Mosaic Project tour – Geri Allen on piano, Tia Fuller on sax, Ingrid Jensen on trumpet and Lizz Wright and Gretchen Parlato on vocals, plus Josh Hari on bass and Matt Stevens on guitar – takes the stage at the Wisconsin Union Theater’s Shannon Hall, the first event in this season's Isthmus Jazz Series.   
To put Carrington in perspective, she’s a third-generation jazz musician.  Her grandfather played drums with Fats Waller when the stride piano potentate played Boston; her father mostly played sax, though sometimes drums, and occasionally accompanied, according to the Internet, James Brown, Sam Cooke, B.B. King and Lionel Hampton. 
As a teen Carrington studied with legendary drummer Jack DeJohnette, who rose to fame on the definitive fusion albums: Charles Lloyd’s Forest Flower (Atlantic 1966) and Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew (Columbia 1970).  With her wide-ranging, fusion-imbued, neo-bop style Carrington went on to make music with emperors: Stan Getz, Pharoah Sanders, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock are on that list.  But she’s been an empress in her own right for a long time now.  Her first album as a leader, Real Life Story (Verve 1989) – recorded way back when H.W. Bush was president – featured Wayne Shorter, Carlos Santana and Dianne Reeves, and it got a Grammy nom for best jazz fusion that year. 
I caught up with Carrington on the phone last week, at an hour we’d appointed via email.  I expected to find her in Boston, where she teaches at Berklee College of Music, but it turned out she was trapped in Europe thanks to an airline strike. 
“I'm in Germany," she says, sounding slightly weary.  “It's 1:30 AM here.  I’m still up, but I’m a little discombobulated.”

CulturalOyster: Like a lot of jazz players, the music runs in your family – but when you were a kid women instrumentalists were rarer than diamonds, and the few who were out there were keyboardists. What drew you to pick up the drums, in particular, given the lack of role models?

Carrington:  Well, my grandfather played, my father played, and when you’re young you don’t see that it’s something different, you just go with it if it speaks to you. I was seven when I started and it was just natural.  As I got older I realized it was unusual, but I didn’t really care much ‘cause I always had a lot of support and encouragement.

CulturalOyster: You were still really young when you moved to New York and started playing in the big leagues – a kid pioneer in what was still a tough man’s world.  Really, what you did was historic.  What was that like?

Carrington: Again, I didn’t really realize I was doing it.  Now it hits me.  I’ll be 50 next year and it’s hitting me that I did some pretty cool things. I’m just starting to be aware of my pioneer spirit. Being the first woman to win the jazz instrumental – all that is adding up now, and I think oh, wow!  When I was younger of course I realized it, but I didn’t think about it.  I was just worried about the music.  You know I felt in some ways like one of the guys, which worked to my advantage. 

CulturalOyster: How did Jack DeJohnette come to be your mentor?

Carrington: He came to Boston to play. My dad took me to see him and we got together at a sound check, there was nobody there and I just played a little and he was super cool.  He invited me up to visit him at his house.  I was 17, I’d just gotten my license so I drove up there and his family embraced me.  It was a great time, I met a lot of people and learned a lot.

CulturalOyster: Who else has influenced you most?

Carrington: My biggest influences are Jack and Wayne.  Herbie in some ways, too, but Jack and Wayne were the most important because I got with them when I was very young and impressionable.  It felt like we were like-minded, to me as well as to them.  Otherwise, on drums Roy Haynes was a big influence.  I learned from so many, really, all the greats – I tried to take something from each one of them.  But I think we inspired each other, it’s really a circle of inspiration. 

CulturalOyster: Who are you listening to – who’s got your ear these days?

Carrington: Ah, so many different things.  I’ve been listening to a lot of commercial music – I really like Mali Music, it’s pop R&B. [I had to look this up – Mali Music’s the stage name for a singer/songwriter with a gospel background who’s just put out his first major-label release:]. 
At this moment I’m listening to a lot of Tony Williams [Miles’ Davis’ drummer in the ‘60s, before DeJohnette] – I’m in Germany doing a lifetime tribute to him on Saturday.  I like a lot of stuff I’m hearing from newer jazz artists like [trumpeter] Christian Scott and [bassist] Alan Hampton, who used to play bass with me when he was at the Monk Institute.  Now he’s more like James Taylor, for lack of a better analogy. 

CulturalOyster: For the Mosaic Project – the album and since – you’ve brought together a shifting lineup of lionesses, both emerging and established.  That’s hugely important, but it does suggest we’re still thinking of jazz in terms of gender.  Obviously despite all our best efforts we’re still somehow living in a world of racism and machismo, but how do you see the issue of gendered jazz, and where do you see that going?

Carrinton: Like everyone else we just keep plugging away at those isms, whether it’s racism or sexism or ageism.  It’s interesting, I just saw an interview with Tony Williams back in ’69 – no, I think it was ’71 – and they were asking him about the Black Panther Party and he didn’t know anything about it, it really wasn’t part of his experience.  I can relate to that.  I’m always asked about gender issues but it’s not part of my experience.  Of course I deal with it on a daily basis like any woman in a male-dominated field, whether or not you’re directly confronted by it.  I’m always on the side of what’s right, and the side of the underdog, but – musically you either like it or you don’t, no matter who’s playing it.  It’s up to everybody to support the music they like.  They should use their ears, not their eyes.

CulturalOyster:  How is the Mosaic Project – I mean the tour, not the album – structured?  How much do you take the lead, and how much collaboration goes on onstage?  

Carrington: It’s my project, I wrote or arranged a lot of the music, but it has to be collaborative when you get onstage, ‘cause you’re improvising.  What makes it the Mosaic Project is multiple vocalists – Lizz Wright is doing the tour a lot, and sometimes Gretchen Parlato, who’s on this one.  They come onstage at different times.  But I generally have a guy on bass and a guy on guitar [reader: this tour is no exception; please see my opening pararaph for the full lineup on Nov. 8].  It’s important to show that a group can be driven by women, but men and women have to work together in society and onstage too.

CulturalOyster: If you had three wishes to be granted right now, what would they be? *

Carrington: The first, world peace. The second would be health and long life, and third one – the ability to remain being creative and able to grow in the artistic environment.

* Question inspired by Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter and Gary Alderman.